The K Files, Entry #1: The Dyatlov Pass Incident
On January 25, 1959, 10 experienced hikers embarked upon a two-week ski tour through the Ural Mountains of the Soviet Union. Failing to send a telegram to the sports club where they had logged their trek, and with family members and friends becoming concerned with the group’s delayed return, a search party was sent out to determine the location of the hikers, and whether or not they were injured or in danger. Findings on the 26th of February reported that the group’s tent was in disrepair, seeming to have been slashed open from the inside. Their shoes and cold weather gear had been left within the tent, and footprints could be seen moving away from the campsite in various directions. The hikers, however, were nowhere to be found. This is the story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident.
The group, led by Igor Dyatlov, was composed mostly of students and peers from the Ural Polytechnical Institute, and were all certified as Grade-II hikers with ski tour experience. The goal of the expedition was to reach the Gora Otorten mountain and achieve their Grade-III hikers’ certification, which required the completion of an expedition that spanned at least 300 kilometers. 10 hikers set out on the trip in the early morning hours of January 25th – Igor Dyatlov, Yuri Doroshenko, Lyudmila Dubinina, Georgiy Krivonischenko, Alexander Kolevatov, Zinaida Kolmogorova, Rustem Slobodin, Nikolai Thibeaux-Brignolles, Semyon Zolotaryov, and Yuri Yudin – via truck from Ivdel to Vizhai. On January 28, shortly after beginning their trek to the mountain, Yuri Yudin, suffering from rheumatism and a congenital heart defect, turned back to return home, citing joint pain. The remaining 9 hikers continued on without him. Diaries left behind by the hikers dictate that they had begun to move through the pass towards their destination on February 1st with intentions to reach the other side before nightfall and set up camp. However, driving snow and decreased visibility set them off course, and the group, realizing their error, decided to set up camp for the night near the top of Kholat Syakhl. These diary entries are the last that the group would ever make.
Dyatlov and his team were due to reach Gora Otorten by February 12th and report back. However, when February 20th arrived, and still no word had been sent, concerned family members and friends began demanding that a search party be sent out to investigate their whereabouts. Volunteers from the Polytechnical Institute departed first in search of the hikers, later followed by armed forces utilizing military equipment. When the search party finally located the campsite, they were baffled. The tent appeared to be cut open from the inside with all other contents in perfect order. There was no evidence of an animal attack of any kind. None of these highly experienced hikers had taken the time to dress in their cold weather gear, leaving behind even their boots and instead opting to leave the tent in socks or bare feet. Hot plates had even been left set up as if they had been preparing for dinner. Whatever took place that night caused the hikers to flee their tent in a hurry. Two hikers were initially found during this search – Krivonischenko and Doroshenko – by the remains of a small fire at the edge of the forest, and dressed only in their underwear. Broken limbs were found in the trees surrounding them, suggesting that these hikers had attempted to climb a tree, perhaps to look for something. A few meters off, Dyatlov, Kolmogorva, and Slobodin were discovered in poses that seemed to suggest that this group had been attempting to make their way back to the campsite. All of the initially located hikers were determined to have died from hypothermia. The final discovery of the remaining hikers’ bodies on May 4th, however, following the ice thaw, left investigators with even more questions.
In a ravine deep into the woods were found the bodies of Dubinina, Kolevatov, Thibeaux-Brignolles, and Zolotaryov. Thibeaux-Brignolles had suffered severe skull damage. Dubinina and Zolotaryov had major chest fractures, determined to have been caused by extreme pressure and not by external forces, and Dubinina was missing her tongue, eyes, and parts of her lips. Kolevatov was missing both of his eyebrows.
Russian authorities soon closed the case, determining that all hikers had died due to the elements, and that animals and erosion had likely caused the bodily damage. However, the question still lingered among the public – what would cause 9 healthy, experienced hikers to willingly flee their tent in the middle of the night carrying no protective gear? Conjectures of an attack by the nearby Mansi tribe had circulated, but was quickly dismissed, as there were no additional footprints at the scene, and no sign of a struggle or hand to hand combat had been found. The lack of this evidence also ruled out the possibility of an animal attack. Reports came in from several in surrounding villages of bright lights seen in the sky during the days of the missing hikers, giving way to a historically popular theory that extraterrestrials were involved. Conspiracy theorists claimed that they believed the hikers to have accidentally stumbled upon Russian government testing being carried out in the remote areas of the Ural Mountains, and that the hikers had come to their deaths either accidentally or purposefully. The most interesting theory that I personally have heard to date, however, came from a book called Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dytalov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar. His theory, stemming from extensive research on the area, involved a scientifically proven phenomenon that is both wild and simplistic at the same time: infra-sound.
Infra-sound are described as sound waves with frequencies lower than what can be detectable by the human ear. Many studies have been conducted throughout the years on the effect of infra-sound on the human body. One study placed a group of individuals in a movie theater under the guise of previewing a movie. When the infra-sound was emitted into the space, several of the movie goers expressed feelings of panic and discomfort, chest pains, and depression, some even choosing to leave the theater altogether. In The Ghost in the Machine, an article published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, the author Vic Tandy summarizes his experiences in a medical equipment research laboratory wherein he believed that he was being haunted by a supernatural being. Upon further investigation, he found that there were inaudible vibrational sounds coming from an exhaust fan nearby his desk, which he ultimately attributed to his ghostly hallucinations. Furthermore, Eichar in his book discussed his theory with the NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and found that the geographical conditions on the pass were ideal for creating infra-sound – sparsely placed vegetation and peaks with the potential to create infra-sound-generating Von Karman vortices (small tornadoes).
The incident in the Ural Mountains has never been solved, and the pass has now been named the Dyatlov Pass, in honor of the group’s leader, Igor Dyatlov. The Russian government reopened the case in 2019, but still no cause has been determined. What do you think happened to the Dyatlov Nine? Was it aliens? Infrasound? Government interference? Drop a line below to let me know what you think. And stay tuned for additional entries in The K Files.